Abdominal wall and inguinal hernias

A hernia happens when an organ pushes through a weakness in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place. Therefore, an abdominal wall hernia refers to a situation where abdominal contents- usually fat and part of the small intestine- break through a weakened area or a gap in the abdominal muscle, causing a visible bulge. Sometimes the bulge cannot be seen, but you may experience pain when coughing or straining.

The abdominal wall covers an area on the front of our body between the chest and the hips. The belly button is in the middle of the abdominal wall.

Abdominal wall hernias can occur in the upper part (epigastric hernia), middle (umbilical or belly-button hernia), lower part (inguinal, femoral or groin hernia) or the side (lumbar hernia). Sometimes the hernia occurs over a site of previous surgery where the abdominal wall becomes weakened (incisional hernia).

Abdominal wall hernias may not show any symptoms other than a visible bulge, but they may sometimes get aggravated, causing pain and requiring immediate treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors of Abdominal Hernias

Abdominal wall hernias develop a result of weakness or separation in the abdominal wall muscle. This is usually due to excessive straining and stretching. Sometimes an abdominal wall hernia can result after previous surgery because of incomplete healing of the muscles.

Some risk factors that can lead to weakening of the abdominal wall muscles include:

  • chronic constipation and straining during bowel movements
  • heavy lifting, such as weight lifting
  • repetitive straining during urination
  • obesity
  • chronic cough
  • pregnancy
  • fluid or pressure in the abdomen

Symptoms of Abdominal Hernias

The most common symptom will be a bulge in the abdominal wall. Other symptoms may include pain, especially during any form of exertion such as lifting, bending or coughing.

Treatment of Inguinal Hernias

Treatment depends on the size of the hernia and whether it is producing any discomfort or symptoms. The doctor may suggest simply to monitor your hernia if it is not serious. If the symptoms are serious, you may opt to repair your hernia.

In most cases repair of abdominal wall hernia can be carried out by keyhole procedure as a day case or with an overnight stay in hospital for observation.